Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with Lamar Hunt Trophy while being interviews by CBS announcer Jim Nantz after the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
All season long the New England Patriots fan base was waiting to see the rebuilt secondary dominate in 2014. It turns out that they were saving it for the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots held Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to just 126 yards passing and intercepting him twice keying a decisive 45-7 win and sending the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
New England rode running back LeGarrette Blount and his power running along with quarterback Tom Brady and his precision short passing game. With the Colts keying on tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady turned his attention to slot wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen for big play and big third down conversions. Getting into the end zone, Brady connected with seldom used fullback James Develin and left tackle Nate Solder (who had reported as tackle-eligible for the play).
On defense, it was another strong performance by linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins as they contributed with timely blitzes to harass Luck, strong support in the running game, and providing help in the passing game against the three tight ends of the Colts. Coby Fleener had 144 yards receiving in November but had just 3 catches for 30 yards on Sunday night.
In the secondary, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner shut out wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief while Kyle Arrington and free safety Devin McCourty held T.Y. Hilton to just one catch on six targets. Even Logan Ryan was effective as Hakeem Nicks had just one catch on three targets. It was a lock-down performance by a secondary on the big stage.
The running game for New England was as dominant as it had been against the Colts last year in the playoffs and this season. Blount rushed 30 times for 148 yards and found the end zone three times. The Colts defensive line and linebackers could not handle the physicality of the Patriots offensive line who battered them and wore them down as the game went on.
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Josh Cribbs (16) muffs a punt recovered by the New England Patriots in the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
On special teams, New England had a huge change of possession early as the Colts returner Josh Cribbs muffed the punt and the Patriots recovered. Six plays later it was 7-0 New England. After the Colts next drive stalled in New England territory, the Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri misses a 51-yard field goal and New England drove down the field quickly with the 30-yard reception by running back Shane Vereen being the big play.
The Colts had cut the lead to 14-7, but after being held to a field goal to make it a ten point game, the Patriots exploded in the third quarter scoring three touchdowns to blow the game open. Brady got Gronkowski involved in the offense and gave the Colts a big dose of Blount. By the fourth quarter it was 38-7 New England and soon it was on to Glendale, AZ to face the Seattle Seahawks in two weeks.